Experiences, Projects, Unpaid Internships

The Internship Grind: Better Know An Intern Pt. 2

In this Better Know An Intern episode Clement speaks to Anke Van de Velde about her internship experience, wanting to go to space, Criminal Minds, and human rights.

For past episodes, the blog, and more info visit theinternshipgrind.com/

// Are you currently a UN intern and want something a little bit better than the WhatsApp chat or the Facebook group to get all the internship information you need to know? Sign up for the new UN Interns Association at unia.ga/

As always, help support the Internship Grind by contributing to Clement’s Generosity crowdfunding campaign:igg.me/at/vUrRUldFoEA

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Experiences, Projects, Unpaid Internships

The Internship Grind: Better Know An Intern Pt. 1

Clement is, if nothing else, a generous guy.

Rather than bang on and on about himself, he’s decided to let some of his peers have their say. (A bit like how this website is a platform for development interns, not just a way of stroking my ego).

I’m trying something a little bit new for the podcast. I’m kind of over sharing my own internship experience so I’m going to start doing this thing where I sit down and chat with other interns about their own internship experiences. This is the first in a series of “Better Know an Intern” episodes.

As always, help support the Internship Grind by contributing to my Generosity crowdfunding campaign:igg.me/at/vUrRUldFoEA

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Experiences, Projects, Unpaid Internships

The Internship Grind: Tennis Court Oath

On June 23, 2016, the UN Interns Association was launched as a way to bring unpaid UN interns in New York City together to institutionalize a community.

I speak with UN interns Bolu Oyewale and Anke Van de Welde about what UNIA is all about and to other interns about why they think we need a UN Interns Association. I also spoke to Jolan Remcsak, another UN intern at the centre of organizing this organization, about the UNIA Executive, what it’s for, and how choosing the leadership for this executive will take place.

If you would like to run to become a part of the executive, please register at uninternsassociation.ga/ and tell interns more about yourself and why you want to get involved.

As always, help support the Internship Grind by contributing to my Generosity crowdfunding campaign:igg.me/at/vUrRUldFoEA

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Experiences, Projects, Unpaid Internships

The Internship Grind: The Intern Social Scene

Ah, now we get to probably the best bit about interning. Cutting loose.

I am possibly biased because I spent most of my intern days in Kampala when it was still very cheap. The parties were often and epic. And I swear I could handle hangovers a hell of a lot better back then (although my old supervisors would probably beg to differ). The relentless marching of time eh?

Clement has some big questions this week:

Where do interns meet? How do you find out about what’s going on within the intern community? Who is Calico Jack? All this will be answered on this alcohol-fueled episode of The Internship Grind.

As always, help support the Internship Grind by contributing to Clement’s Generosity crowdfunding campaign:igg.me/at/vUrRUldFoEA

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Advice, Learning

Getting To Grips With Your Social Media Self

Of late, I have been on a Twitter ‘sabbatical’.

This sabbatical was not the product of a conscious, thought-out decision in which I actively decided to remove myself for complex reasons of social network activism or in an attempt to reconnect with the ‘good old un-connected days’. Rather, it happened slowly and without me realising, until one day, I logged on to Twitter and realised that I hadn’t engaged with the network for over six months – my account was just sitting there, quietly waiting for me to come back, asking me what I wanted to Tweet about next?

It would seem that my Twitter sabbatical coincided with a period of time in my life in which my goals and career focus were in a state of flux.

A year ago, my Twitter ‘space’ had a clear identity.

I was actively engaging with a relatively defined community of people (those working in or interested in the cross-section between Africa, information, technology, media, development, human rights) and most of my followers were (or still are) from that community. The rest all probably have something to do with coffee, the other passion which made it regularly into my Twitter feed. My network, by and large, was relatively ‘bounded’.

In my days working in the newspaper industry and studying at SOAS and the University of Oxford, I used Twitter as a professional and career development resource. I have blogged before, on this very page, about how I used Twitter as my ‘rolling online CV’. I Tweeted my own ideas, I engaged, I re-tweeted, I live-Tweeted at events and conferences, I hashtagged, I plugged blogs I had written, I got jobs through Twitter, and I came across endless accounts of people and organisations whose work I still follow and admire. Essentially, I became an expert in how to curate a useful, successful online community network – and I gave you guys nine tips so that you could do the same!

It seems strange to re-read that ‘nine tips’ blog now, in the context of now writing this one. At that time, I wrote: “Watch what you Tweet – If you imagine your Twitter page as a rolling online CV, you automatically become more aware of what you allow on to your feed” (this statement remains true, by the way).

Because the thing is, that in order for Twitter to serve this purpose for you – for it to be used as a way of tapping into a specific community (whether that be #globaldev or otherwise) – you have to have a very clear idea of who and what that community is, and what your role is and could be within that community. By knowing those things, you can ‘curate’ your Twitter feed to cater to that particular audience.

Every Tweet becomes a clearly-made choice and every interaction is treated as a key step in building new professional relationships. You become a hyper-aware manager of your online presence. You constantly criticise, and critically analyse, whether your online Twitter ‘self’ is an accurate reflection of your offline non-Twitter self, and if it could be improved. For those of us on ‘the bottom rungs of the ladder’, those choices carry that little bit more weight.

But what happens when that network needs some re-shaping? If you move to a slightly different ladder? What happens to your carefully-defined Twitter then?

The totally brilliant Danah Boyd writes extensively about the ways in which we manage identity in different contexts (online and offline) and coming across her work while studying for my Masters at the Oxford Internet Institute was one of the many revelations of my postgraduate degree. My main takeaway from her extensive work is that the Internet has confused and disorientated the ways in which we have historically, or traditionally, always managed our identities. We haven’t ever had just ‘one’ identity; we are a complex set of identities, which we have always been able to manage and curate between different contexts relatively easily.

Back in the day, would we have let our friends, grandparents, employers and ex-boyfriends all see the same set of holiday pictures? Would we have included on our CV a short section titled ‘Political Views and My Attitudes Towards Gender, Race and Religion’? Probably not. We would have navigated our way between these different contexts and presented the aspects of our identities, of our lives, that were appropriate to each of those contexts.

Life on the Internet completely throws those contexts into disarray. Boyd describes these contexts as becoming ‘collapsed’ – i.e. that those contexts are no longer as easily defined or ‘bounded’ and are therefore harder to navigate.

Do I accept this work colleague on Facebook? If I tweet about this salted caramel brownie, will this very impressive and important consultant unfollow me on Twitter? If I share this article on the EU Referendum, will I have a bunch of random people I worked with five summers ago and haven’t spoken to since all start to judge me for my political views?

Maybe not everybody asks themselves these questions, but I do.

There are two points to this blog, really. One was selfish – to force myself to write some of this experience down; to put academic ideas of ‘collapsed contexts’ and ‘online identities’ into actual practice and everyday experience; and to explain to anybody who wants to read this why I disappeared off the map for a while.

The second is to add a final, tenth ‘tip’ to that blog I wrote three years ago:

10. Don’t let your Twitter, or any social network, define you. Twitter and social media are great resources for putting ‘who you are’ onto the professional map, but if that ‘who you are’ changes – don’t panic. Human beings are dynamic, not static, and so too should be our social networks.

For the record, I do now intend to be back, re-defining and re-curating my Twitter space. Maybe some people will drop off that network, hopefully new people will join. I think that’s kind of the whole point.

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Experiences, Projects, Unpaid Internships

The Internship Grind: The Intern Food Review

If you don’t get paid, work all the time and you live in an incredibly expensive city how are you supposed to eat?

Clement Nocos takes us through his routine. He spends 12 hours a day out of the house and eats out in New York while he does his UN internship. He has something like $8 a day to do this. How?

Clement has some good tips so listen to him, especially if you’re in New York.

This episode gave me flashbacks to spending my last 5000 Ugandan Shillings on an order of chips-chaps at Chicken Tonight. My card had been blocked and nobody was paying me, cash or otherwise, but I splurged it all in one go anyway. It was a surprisingly liberating evening and, thankfully, Natwest sorted out my card the next day. At other times I also relied on the largesse of friends – Kampala crew, you know who you are – to keep me fed.

As for my two cents, I would advise staying at home a bit more and cooking a whole lot. Learn to cook big batch pasta sauces/stews using cheap cuts of meat, roast whole chickens and keep using the meat throughout the week, make rice/noodle and veggie stir frys like Mee Goreng. This saves A LOT of money (and impresses dates).

Cook up several portions worth on weekends and portion it out throughout the week. Also, figure out a way to cook whatever ingredients are very cheap where you are. When I was living in Nairobi last year I learned how to make a delicious Szechuan green bean dish because I could buy a kilo of the things for next to nothing. Googling recipes is pretty damn cheap.

As ever, please support Clement and/or check out his other podcasts.

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Experiences

Course Reviews: Master of Public Policy at the Hertie School of Governance

When I started my graduate degree most people would hear ‘Master of Public Policy‘, nod, pause a couple of a seconds and then ask me what that was, exactly. At first I didn’t know how to answer. Judging from the answers given by my graduating class (and myself) we’re still not entirely sure.

Now, at least, when people ask me about the course I did I have a quickfire response: it’s like an MBA but for politics.

Need someone to revamp a bit of your company? Hire an MBA grad. Want somebody to draft you a new policy or run a project that isn’t profit oriented? Hire an MPP grad.

The world of modern government is difficult. The public sector is responsible for far more than it ever used to be, people expect much more from and the general public is generally more dissatisfied with it than ever. Public policy schools have sprung up to try to train people who can solve some of these problems.

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Isaiah Berlin

Personally, my motivation for doing an MPP came from my various internships in development and hearing the experiences of friends and bloggers who were doing similar things. I saw that, often, many organisations in the sector aren’t run very well. They aren’t financially stable, the people in charge are often technical experts rather than people who know how to run organisations, and, as a result, most organisations are struggling to stay relevant, transparent and respected during a difficult moment in history. Rather than become a highly specialised lawyer or logistics expert, I figured, why not go study to be a generalist – be the person who lets specialists focus on their specialisations.

The MPP programme dips into economics, law, politics, public administration and statistics; enough to give graduates an understanding of the broader set of challenges facing public and nonprofit organisations today. This is a degree that sees the fox as superior to the hedgehog, an approach that I think global development truly benefits from. If you want to come out of your graduate school experience an expert in your field, this probably isn’t the course for you.

Of course, you do learn skills. In the (brutal) first semester everybody gets a crash course in economics (both micro and macro in 12 weeks!) and statistics, where you learn to use STATA and understand multiple regressions. I did courses on digital economics, learned how to download and analyse social media data, got an introduction to law and participated in a series of mock negotiations during my two years in Berlin.

The MPP is a professional graduate degree that focuses on shorter, more workplace applicable outputs: memos, short essays, presentation after dreaded presentation. It is a tough and full time course that gets through a lot of material very quickly. The day I handed in my thesis I had an oral exam. After that, I went right home to work on two essays due that same week. Many of my peers would agree that this course was a lot more work and hours (say goodbye to your weekends) than most jobs. But once you get through it, nothing else is likely to phase you.

The Berlin experience

I chose to go to the Hertie School in Berlin for three main reasons: it was cheaper than most of the other options (both in terms of tuition and living costs); I really liked the city from previous visits; and my partner grew up in Berlin. I’m still very pleased with my decision.

There are things you probably already know. Berlin is cheap as chips. Berlin is still just about the coolest city on the planet right now. But it is also the capital of Europe’s most powerful country and the Hertie School is located a couple of minutes from the Reichstag, slap bang in the middle of the government district. Practically every day at Hertie a important minister, ambassador, policy maker or social scientist visits to give a talk (with free food and drinks afterwards). You can’t help but feel you’re at the centre of a major political capital. In addition, Hertie is tiny compared to most of its competitors – my graduating class, the only class of my cohort, was just 146 people. That’s it. You’ll know most of your peers and most of the professors will know your name and learn your interests. You don’t feel part of a huge machine at Hertie, but part of a very active, very well connected political community.

There are downsides. Hertie is a very young institution, just over a decade old, and doesn’t have the name recognition (at least outside Germany) of the LSE or Columbia University. Particularly for non-Europeans, battling with the bureaucratic German registration process and finding housing can be gruelling. While my fellow students were largely very well integrated there is no denying that the Germans tended to stick with their fellow Germans, leaving the rest of us ausländer to club together.

On the whole, however, the downsides were handily outweighed. What Hertie doesn’t have in brand recognition it makes up for in faculty and staff who are massively committed and energetic – it’s a young, small, hungry institution that doesn’t coast along on its name. One of the worst aspects of my undergraduate experience was the feeling that I wasn’t seen as a student with interests and potential, but a source of income. This will not happen at Hertie.

The MPP network

I heard about the MPP via the Master of Public Administration course offered at the London School of Economics (which is, broadly, the same as the MPP offered at Hertie). There are several Public Policy schools who band together around the world offering more or less comparable degrees and a huge amount of study abroad and dual degree options. Friends of mine studied part of their 2 year degrees in London, New York, Washington, Paris, Tokyo, Cairo, Milan and Moscow.

Hertie is the most Europe/EU focused of the public policy schools. It has EU staffers and former European Central Bank officials in its faculty. Most of the lessons focus on European issues (not German, specifically, but in recent years the two have been hard to disentangle). Some students were disappointed that they could not focus on geographical or thematic areas – such as Latin America or Conflict Resolution – so check out the rest of the policy schools before you choose one: most have a general area of interest/focus.

All MPP/MPAs are taught in English. You can travel the world and meet your fellow politics geeks at yearly student conferences like the European Public Policy Network or the Global Public Policy Network (which I attended in 2013). My graduating cohort contained students from 36 different countries, starting with Afghanistan all the way through to Uruguay. Friends have gone on to travel and work or study in many more countries. There aren’t many places in the world I can go and not find somebody in this network, sweating it out writing policy memos, ready to give me local tips and share a drink or two.

It’s not often in life that you will meet so many interesting people in such a short space of time (several of whom have written for this blog). In 20 years time, I’m sure that the most valuable thing to come from my time at Hertie won’t be the skills or ideas I learned, but the network of people I met.

Five characteristics of a happy Hertie MPP student:

  1. You don’t want to be a specialist/you don’t know what you want to specialise in just yet.
  2. You want to work in the public or nonprofit sectors (or in socially oriented business).
  3. You value personal attention over big name recognition.
  4. You care about the EU.
  5. You are internationalist in outlook.
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